Northern Ireland

Bangor man travels the world with Northern Ireland flag

Flag in the Philippines
Image caption Jonny Blair brought his flag to Bohol Island in the Philippines in Asia.
Jonny Blair with Masai
Image caption He displayed it when he met Masai people - known for the men's ability to jump high - in Tanzania, Africa.
Jonny Blair with gondolas in Venice
Image caption He has visited countries in all five continents: here, he is pictured in Venice, Europe.
Jonny Blair in Bolivia
Image caption Bolivia in south America - one of his favourite countries - is where he saw these vicunas, a relative of the llama.
Jonny Blair overlooking Manhattan
Image caption Due north east from Bolivia, he ticked off a popular tourist landmark - the Empire State Building in New York City.
Jonny Blair in Antarctica
Image caption No tour of the continents would be complete without Antarctica - this photograph was taken at Half Moon Island.

These photographs are more than holiday snaps.

The man in them, originally from Bangor, Northern Ireland, has made travelling his lifestyle for the last 10 years.

During the decade since he packed his bags, Jonny Blair has visited more than 70 countries, met tribespeople, worked on farms, fed hyenas and been white-water rafting.

And he has brought a reminder of home on his journey.

The red cross on a white background flutters from many a lamppost in Northern Ireland, and is often a divisive symbol between unionists and nationalists.

But the traveller carries his flag - the former flag of Northern Ireland - far and wide, and says it provokes conversations with people from around the world.

"For me it's the flag that the football team and golfers like Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have used, so I'm quite proud of that and I do take it everywhere with me," he said.

Mr Blair spoke to Radio Ulster on a break between touring Ethiopia and visiting North Korea, from a temporary base in Hong Kong.

"I am being a bit greedy, but I would like to visit every country in the world," he said.

Hard graft

He started as a working student in the south of England, then a round-the-world trip stirred up his wanderlust.

This October will mark 10 years since he started out and he is keen to say that anyone can travel the world - if they are prepared for hard graft to pay for it.

Having worked "about 50 jobs" along the way, he is now settling into a career that suits the lifestyle he has carved out - travel writing.

He writes for various websites, runs a travel blog with photos of his flag around the world, and is currently developing a travel app for smartphones.

In fact, he recently completed its Belfast entry.

"Being a Northern Irishman like I do promote Northern Ireland a lot," Jonny said.

"I do tell people that you need to go and see the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills, so I won't hesitate to tell anyone that my favourite country is Northern Ireland."

But away from home, his favourite places are Bolivia and Uruguay in south America, and Taiwan and China in Asia.

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